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PR and the media (latest from the US)

13 Jul

Here are three observations on contemporary public relations from a media perspective (most positive first):

  1. The Power and the Story: Michael Wolff's analysis in Vanity Fair of President Obama's powerful media operation. (Note the difference in style between a magazine and a blog: there's a 76-word sentence containing no fewer than nine commas here. But don't let that put you off reading this elegant article.)
  2. Spinning the Web: PR in Silicon Valley: New York Times business section (and note Richard Edelman's scathing reaction to this exercise in self-promotion).
  3. PR Girls Who Don't Know Where Darfur Is Bask in Bruno Press Blitz: New York Times fashion section (via PROpenMic). Nuff said, probably, though there's already a tribute blog – Hot Twin PR

What are we to make of this? In brief, it shows the problem of simplifying an activity that spans political and technology communications and also includes celebrity publicity. But I suspect it also shows something of an east coast, west coast divide in the US. Here in the UK, Max Clifford, Matthew Freud, Alan Parker and Roland Rudd all work in London (see post below) – a political, financial and media hub.


13 Nov

John Harris has written an extended feature on Matthew Freud’s connections to the worlds of politics, media and celebrity. It reads rather like an appendix to Miller and Dinan’s A Century of Spin: the author can’t quite pin his subject down, but clearly senses there’s something wrong in someone having this much influence.

Having a famous great-grandfather, being the son of well-known MP and broadcaster, having Rupert Murdoch as father-in-law must confer advantages. I suspect it encouraged him to take risks, because you can see Freud’s progress as an entrepreneurial success story – how someone who did not go to university built a business and became connected to the most powerful people in the country. He’s earned the money he’s spending on private jets and lavish parties, though John Harris sees him as the Great Gatsby of our age.

Planespotting high flyers

9 Jul

PR Week is again seeking to identify and name 29 PR high flyers under the age of 29. Don’t ask me why it’s 29, not 30.

It’s a good idea, though. Careers in PR often start young and climb high quickly (didn’t Matthew Freud sell his consultancy for the first time when he was around 30?). And success can become self-fulfilling.

Tech PR consultant and blogger Drew Benvie was named a few years ago. And in another field, Granta’s list of ‘Best of the Young British Novelists’ from 25 years ago now looks stunning in retrospect. Martin Amis, Pat Barker, Julian Barnes, William Boyd, Kazuo Ishiguru, Ian McKeown, Salman Rushdie are among many other now-famous names on the list.

So if you can think of someone worthy of this attention, please nominate them before 25 July. I’ll be curious to see if any PR graduates make it onto the list (there are several of our graduates in the PR Week Power Book).

Search me!

27 Apr

Paul Taylor of the Financial Times has been trying out some new search tools designed to find people or check their digital footprint. He seems to have found more use for Spock than I can (it’s still in beta).

I still find Google most useful because I have the toolbar on each PC I use, and because Google favours blog entries over static web content. One example should demonstrate this: take Katya Trubilova, a final year student who has blogged as part of her dissertation work. It helps that she doesn’t have a common anglo-saxon name, but she owns the Google search result on her name and we can learn quite a lot about the life of an Estonian studying in Yorkshire. She’s also on LinkedIn (though her profile is a year out of date).

Facebook has become such an unremarkable aspect of our everyday lives (sorry about us and them, but most people I come across exist on Facebook) that the efficiency of its search often goes unnoticed. It works because it does more than return names from a database; it filters these names through several layers. First, those I’m already friends with. Second, those in my existing networks (eg by location). Third, friends of friends and so on. It’s so efficient that it rarely lets me down – and then probably only because the Gillian I’m looking for calls herself Gill. What’s in a name? A whole lot of personal brand and reputation assets.

Is this the hardest job in PR?

9 Apr

She’s had a good inquest, but the telegenic Katharine Witty has a tough job as Mohamed Al Fayed’s spokesperson judging from the experience of those who’ve gone before. Hadley Freeman discusses the challenge of the role in The Guardian’s G2 section (free registration required).

Oman alive

28 Jan

ManFor a class today, I need to leave some digital footprints. So here are a few traces in the sand.

I’ve just visited one sultanate (Oman), one kingdom (Bahrain), and several emirates (Dubai, Sharjah) on a working holiday. My work involved visiting two students who are working in PR consultancies in the Gulf. But my wife’s work in responsible tourism was the main reason for going.

Yes, I feel guilty about taking seven flights and driving more than a thousand kilometers in less than two weeks – but I’m glad I went.

Year of anniversaries

4 Jan

In my older sister’s family, 2008 will see a 50th and a 21st birthday as well as 25th wedding anniversary.

I prefer retrospectives to resolutions (typical historian), so here are some of my anniversaries this year. Ten years ago, I set out on the journey from corporate communicator to communications skills trainer that has also led to me being here. I’m now approaching my fifth anniversary as a university lecturer.

I’ve been a member of the now CIPR for ten years. This used to bring an automatic fellowship (FCIPR) – in our professionalising age, these are no longer handed out for so little merit. Instead, I will either have to become a jolly good comittee fellow or sign up for CPD.

Twenty years ago I was shuttling across the Atlantic as a writer on business technology. I recall attending two very different trade shows in the Las Vegas heat: one majored on typewriters (explanation for digital natives), the other a few months later was the world’s showcase for the emergent personal computer industry. At the time, I thought it inevitable that Japan would overtake America – as it has in cars and photocopiers – in the forefront of the PC business. You see why I don’t do predictions?

Like father, like daughter?

10 Nov

Our industry is barely a century old, and it’s still not quite a full profession. So it’s not surprising that there are so few British PR dynasties.

I’ve worked with Kevin Traverse-Healy FCIPR whose father Tim is a distinguished practitioner and academic. I remember Chris Corfield (when at A Plus Group) telling me his father had been in PR. Crispin Manners also followed in his father Norman’s footsteps (see the note to editors at the end of this news release).

Have I missed any obvious dynastic examples? Perhaps here’s one for the future…

One of our second year students is the daughter of CIPR president Tony Bradley’s business partner (in Bradley O’Mahoney). She possibly has greater opportunities than her father (since the public relations business is now so much larger), but she will probably face more competition at every stage of her career.

Finding me

7 Jul

Perhaps I’m odd. I prefer obscurity to celebrity. I enjoy the anonymity of cities and the solitude of country walks. Yet I maintain my membership of the CIPR because I think it’s an important statement, and because it means my contact details are available to all other members. And this blog is in part about Google juice (it brings me in at fourth place in a global search on my name).

I had thought this might be enough to help an amateur sleuth find me (there’s even a photo on this screen to help with identification). So it’s worth reporting that a letter I sent to PR Week elicited an invitation to a reunion from the consultancy that gave me my first job in PR (they’ve since gone through more name changes than me).

Logic tells us to move beyond our obsession with print publications; yet emotion keeps drawing people back to the power of print. (Ironically, the gist of my letter was to treat bloggers as people, not as media.)

Some speech

2 Dec

I’ve been teaching some classes on speech writing recently, so I paid attention to an address given at a graduation ceremony at this university today.

Jane Tomlinson has a story to tell. Since being diagnosed with terminal cancer, she has pushed herself to ever greater feats of physical endurance – and raised large sums of money for good causes. Last year she completed the Ironman triathlon in Florida, with the help of my colleague Ryan Bowd.

She received an honorary degree and addressed our graduands. Her speech began and ended with them. Their achievements, their aspirations, their sense of belonging to a community, their lives ahead of them. Only then did she talk about her personal struggles and achievements. It was very humbling.